Make no mistake, Google Glass in its current iteration has failed to become a tenable product, something no amount of marketing spin can cover. If Glass really was doing brisk business, Google would be beside themselves singing the praises of the just-released second generation. That the wearable computer was pulled from the market altogether without so much as a projected date indicates its failure to resonate with consumers.
But the failure of Glass does not mean the company is cubbyholed in the same way Blackberry has been unable to move beyond making mobile handsets. Rather, it is the inevitable result of Google’s “leap without looking” approach, where the game is not necessarily to make the best or the most polished product, but to capitalise on first mover advantages…then figure everything else out, including
This approach couldn’t be any different from their traditional rivals at Apple. While the Cupertino based technology giant keeps products under wraps for years, testing, redoing, perfecting, and grandly unveiling a highly polished, finished product, Google favours a scattershot approach, floating products to the market to “see what sticks”; ruthlessly killing things that don’t make money or otherwise fail.
While this would send most investors running for the hills, the Mountain View company has an uncanny ability to “sniff” out good investments. Google has historically supplemented itself by making several very smart acquisitions in key areas, nurturing them until they became industry powerhouses: it was prescient enough to buy YouTube near the start of the video sharing revolution, and made an equally prophetic acquisition of a small software startup called Android, Inc.
Most outsiders fail to realise the inherent danger in sticking to core strengths. The obvious cost of playing it safe is missing out on the next big thing. Intel was so wrapped up in its indomitable chokehold of the desktop and laptop market it completely missed the mobile revolution, and now finds itself fending off Qualcomm, VIA, Texas Instruments, and a horde of other eager competitors, some of whom have even begun to encroach on Intel’s traditional leadership in laptops and desktops.
“Failures” like Google Glass are the necessary price of keeping ahead. While some of Google's products may be tone-deaf and poorly timed, the spirit of “giving it a go” remains ingrained in the corporate culture and should be insulated from the fickleness of investors. There is no harm in throwing things against the wall when you have the finances of a developing nation, and an idea need only work once to be successful.